Why You Should Eat a Daily (Fat-Loaded) Salad

healthy fats, good fats, olive oil, avocado, avocado oil, salad, salad dressing, salmon, grass-fed beef, goat cheese, grass-fed cheese, nuts, seeds, walnuts, hemp, chia, flax, cashews, pecans, inflammation, saturated fat, oleic acid, kale, spinach, arugula

When someone begins a diet or a journey into health, one of the first meal swaps is substituting a salad in place of "x". Have you been there?  And my next question is ... were you still hungry?

So many of us on the "get healthy" train make giant salads, filled with veggies like tomatoes, carrots, and cucumbers. Then, we might choose some sort of low-calorie dressing like fat-free Ranch or a light vinaigrette.

But what if I told you that kind of salad is NOT as nourishing as you thought and certainly not as satiating as it could be? What if it was actually sabotaging your weight loss goals? What if adding the right kinds of fats to your salad was the key to nutrient absorption, hunger reduction, lasting energy, and even brain health?

Nutrient Absorption

Enter the "fatty salad." According to Max Lugavere, health journalist and author of Genius Foods: Become Smarter, Happier, and More Productive While Protecting Your Brain for Life (link below)a fatty salad is your brain's new best friend. Why is this concoction so good for your brain and for your health in general? It all has to do with the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins and the anti-inflammatory effects of good fats. 

The emphasis here is on the word "good." Healthy fats are those that are not oxidized or overly processed. They come from nature and provide fuel for our bodies and brains. They nourish our cells and help our bodies assimilate vitamins and minerals. 

Having the right combination of fats, especially with vegetables is crucial. Those wonderful fat-soluble vitamins (like A, D, E, and K) present in so many vegetables can only be fully absorbed in the presence of fat. Also, valuable nutrients like carotenoids and lycopene (found in vegetables like carrots and tomatoes) need to be combined with fats to maximum their absorption and effectiveness. 

Let's Build a Fatty Salad

Tossing your salad in a low-fat dressing may save you calories, but you want the most bang for your buck. Adding fats to your salad will not only make it more nutrient-dense, but they'll also increase satiety, helping to ward off hunger later. And the truth is, when your food is nutrient-rich, and you focus on eating "real" food, there is absolutely no need for calorie counting. You only need to be mindful of calories when your diet consists mainly of man-made, packaged and processed foods that wreak havoc on your insulin, blood sugar, and gut health. Remember this: fat doesn't make you fat; sugar makes you fat.

So onto which types of fats are the most beneficial ...

Let's start from the base and work our way up. 

First, fill your bowl with dark leafy greens. Good choices are spinach, kale, and arugula. All three contain high amounts of folate, and vitamins A, C and K. Max Lugavere suggests actually creating a salad using all three. At any rate, just try to steer away from iceberg or other pale lettuces as they contain fewer vitamins. 

Top your greens with some raw veggies. Whatever you like. Maybe you'll add carrots, cucumbers, tomatoes, and bell pepper. These veggies are another great source of nutrients, and adding fats along with them will help those nutrients leach out and into our bodies. 

Now the fats ...

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Adding some avocado is a great way to get in healthy fats with an abundance of nutrition. Avocados are 77% fat. They are filled with the monounsaturated (MUFA) kind, particularly oleic acid. Oleic acid is a powerful anti-inflammatory agent which is known to resist oxidative damage and protects our cell membranes.

I like a little crunch to my salad, so I enjoy adding nuts and seeds. Try topping your greens with nuts like walnuts and pecans or seeds like chia, hemp, and flax to give you rich sources of Omega 3 fatty acids. Other nuts like almonds, cashews, and macadamia nuts or seeds like pumpkin and sunflower will provide some healthy Omega 6 fats. 

A meal-type salad usually includes some sort of protein. If you lean towards eating protein sources that also contain fat, you'll find that satiety levels increase. As a side note, please don't be afraid of saturated fat from animals. The myth that saturated fat causes heart disease has been debunked. Research indicates that inflammation and heart disease often result from increases in sugar consumption, chronically elevated insulin levels, and diets too high in processed carbohydrates. Good fatty sources of protein for salads include whole hard-boiled eggs, salmon, grass-fed beef, and grass-fed cheeses (if you can tolerate dairy). I personally love a salad with salmon and goat cheese. 

Lastly, you'll need a dressing. Choose one that is higher in fat but that does NOT contain harmful, oxidized oils like canola, cottonseed, or soybean. The ideal dressing would be made with extra-virgin olive oil. Olive oil contains oleocanthal which possesses anti-inflammatory effects. Another healthy option for salads is avocado oil. As mentioned avocados and their oil contain oleic acid, the same omega-9 fatty acid that is found in olive oil. 

Making your own dressing is a sure-fire way to get in good fats without worrying about oxidized oils or chemical additives that often are found in store-bought brands. (Here's a recipe for an Apple Cider Vinaigrette.) You can also simply drizzle olive oil directly onto your salad greens. Squeeze some lemon juice on top, and sprinkle Himalayan sea salt over everything. 

So there you have it. A fatty salad combo that will ensure you're absorbing all of the nutrients from vegetables while keeping your hunger at bay. Sounds like a win-win to me!

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